Editors Note: “Price is Right” is a running column from local film enthusiast Mr. Price. He reviews selected Strasburg Film Festival films. If he posts a negative review, then the Shenandoah Film Collaborative will respond within his reviews as to why we selected the certain film. By going about it this way, we can help ensure the reader that these are honest film reviews.
Like the landscapes of the trail for which it is named, “The High Sierra Trail” revels in simple beauty. Both a history of the trail and a chronicle of two men travelling it in the modern day, the film captures both the changes to the land over the creation of the trail and the timeless majesty of the surrounding Sierra Nevada.
“The High Sierra Trail” is straightforward and without pretense, an aesthetic that meshes perfectly with the film’s subject. While the history is fascinating, and while Chris and John are very entertaining, the Trail is the focus. And this is as it should be, with such raw beauty on which to focus. Every shot of the trail and its surrounding landscape, of which there are many, is breathtaking in scale and majesty. The High Sierra Trail is the protagonist of this story, and it delivers a marvelous performance, thanks in no small part to the skillful camera work on display. Amid the natural splendor that is so central to the documentary, every other element serves to emphasize the appeal of this place. The upbeat soundtrack, the cunningly-edited historical photography, and the banter of the two men traversing the mountains all combine to help translate the sensations of being on this trail. The film is so gorgeous in its cinematography that not even harsh almost-desert or gloomy sleet manage to look uninviting.
What may easily have been the backdrop to a different kind of film takes center stage in “The High Sierra Trail”. By having us follow those who made this trail, and those who walk it today, the film manages to capture the feeling of being surrounded by natural beauty. “The High Sierra Trail”’s attention to the history of the place speaks to the raw, primal majesty that can only be felt while walking in timelessly-ancient mountains, and the cunning craftsmanship behind the film’s design and creation work effortlessly to make that wonder felt from beginning to end.